Tuesday, June 5, 2012

For Pleat's Sake...a tutorial

Does the need to pleat eat away at your heart?  Do you just gotta pleat or die?  Well...my need to pleat may not be this dramatic...but dramatic enough.  But here's the trick...and there is a trick to it.  In my head I'm thinking...okay...there's a part you have to pinch and press.  And there's the point where you put the pinched and pressed bit.  I knew there had to be a method to the madness.  Let me also say there's a reason nobody does tutorials on pleats.  They're hard to explain!!!  I'll give it my best shot.

This is what I made...a cute little pleated pillow cover with flower embellishment.  Yay!

 I used this book...(which by the way is pretty terrific if you are into manipulating fabric.  It really gives you the technical details that you need.  Plus it's got some pretty gosh darn gorgeous stuff in it.  It's not so much whole projects as it's techniques you can learn and then take them and do whatever you want to.  Highly recommended book!)

Now on to learning all there is to know about pleating.  Do you wanna know how many pages are devoted to just pleating?  LOTS!  Just trust me.  An entire chapter and I think there's 43 pages in the pleat chapter alone!!!  There is more to pleating than you might ever have known.  I'm just gonna put it out there that this is some heavy stuff.  Get ready for your mind to be blown...in a making pleats sort of way.

Okay, so at any rate, I wanted to pleat but I didn't want to devote too much time or fabric to the project since I'm a novice.  A pillow cover is the perfect size project then.  A 14 x 14 inch pillow cover to be exact.  Neat and small and perfect for whatever...aka...the perfect size for my children to play Veterinarian and lay their sick beasts to sleep upon it.

I am going to make this a 2 part post.  The first part is going to explain the ins and outs of pleats and some technical terms.  YAY learning!  The 2nd part will go into how to make the pillow cover.

Here's what you gotta know about pleats...

You have to measure...and I mean seriously measure.  If you are going to pleat something you need 3 times the amount of fabric that you would have needed if you weren't pleating.  So I was making something 14"x 14" this means I needed a cut of fabric 42" x 14"...this is because the pleats only go one way so you only have to account for the extra fabric that direction.

This is probably the worst picture of all time.  But, if you look closely you'll see solid and dashed lines.  The solid line is the part where you are going to pinch it.  The solid line is really called the "outer fold"  You fold the pinched bit aka the outer fold over and line it up on dashed line..which is really called the "placement line".

Here's the other part where you have to really measure.  Decide how wide you want your pleats.  I chose to make them 1"  This 1" is the bit of pleat you see on the outside of your piece, and this is called the pleat depth.  You must allow 2 times the pleat depth for the under fold...explained in a minute.  So when you are drawing your lines on, start 1/4" in from the edge of the fabric and draw your solid line.  Then 2" over draw your dashed line.  1" over draw your solid line.  2" over dashed line...and so on and so on. Let me give you a visual...

Solid line.  Pinch it.  The reason it's called the outer fold is it's the folded bit that you're going to see on the outside of your piece. 

Fold it over to the dashed line, line it up and pin it along one edge.  Then go over to the other side and pinch and fold.  Then line up the middle and pin it there too!  Do this the entire length of the fabric.

Voila!  As you can see I have pinned this and now it is awaiting a pressing.  You can see row after row after row of  outer folds.

Okay, now this is the underside of your piece.  So there's two terms you need to learn here.  You have the underfold which is the bulk of the fabric that is folded under on the inside of your piece.  And you have the Inner Fold which is the soon to be pressed and sharp edge that's on the inside of your piece that you do not see from the outside at all.  Remember you have to account for the underfold which is why when you draw your lines on you have to give 2" from the pinch line to the fold placement line.

Now, baste your edges.  Just 1/4" from the edge.  BE CAREFUL!!  You do not want your underfold to get folded  under wonky.  You must carefully sew.  Ensuring the entire way that your pleats stay the way you want them to be pleated in the end.  Let me say it again...watch your underfold.  Baste both sides.

Now, we press!!  And yes there is a correct way to iron pleats.  Geez!  If you iron it this way, your pleats will stay pleated.

Get your pressing cloth wet.  Wring it out.  I mean, you don't want it sopping.  Then you place your iron and just hold and press. Do not move back and forth.  You are going to hold it in one spot until the wet fabric is dry.  It only takes a couple of seconds.  Lift up your iron and move it to the next section.  Press and Hold until dry.

See the dry bit? 

Now you've got your pleats folded and basted and pressed.  Now you're ready to complete your pillow cover.

Stay tuned...


  1. I have never tried a pleat before. You make me feel like I can...I'm staying tuned!!!

    1. Aaawww. Thanks Danni. Many times when I think something is difficult, I really just have to give it a try. It's amazing what you can figure out...or fake.

  2. Yep..way to crazy for me to try. Looks super cute though.

  3. Love it Heather - Iv shared it on our FB page xxxxx

  4. Thanks Nat!! You're the best!!


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